Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Ideal Kitchen

For long-time readers with good memories, I have been building to this post for a while.

I finally finished Susie Orbach's Fat is a Feminist Issue 2 - including writing through all of the exercises - in July of 2014. One of the exercises became the basis of how I celebrated my birthday in 2015. When I wrote about that I wrote that there was another one I wanted to do, and that I was going to do it in 2016. I was a year late.

Walking through the visualizations of "The Ideal Kitchen" had already paid off, because that's how I realized I didn't like cooking. I don't hate it. I can find it gratifying, and healthy and economical meals practically require it. It's just not something I would do for fun or relaxation.

That's pretty minor as far as epiphanies go, but I was in a place where I was taking more on and my family assumed I enjoyed it so they weren't thinking about it. I could have wasted a lot of time on it. I still have motivation to do a good job with what we eat, but I also feel freedom to simplify and take shortcuts sometimes. That doesn't sound overly radical, but setting clear priorities that include your needs (not only others' needs) and getting rid of guilt can be surprisingly revolutionary.

The thing with the exercise was that before you started visualizing the ideal kitchen (along with what food is stocked and how you feel about it), you were told that it was not time to cook yet. I suspect that part was to just give enough distance that you could have a sense of remove, but that ended up being the part that stuck with me. Thinking about being alone, so therefore able to nap or take a bath or go get a massage - and imagining the silence - that created the vision with the strongest hold.

It felt like a pipe dream, but so had The Chinese Meal initially, and that ended up being a reality and a very good evening. If one thing you want can happen, then you can't really rule out other things happening.

Much like taking Mom to Disneyland, it was still just going to be something that would happen someday after my finances were more solid. That's why I needed to explain about cashing out the 401K - all of these things that were desired but not possible are made possible by it, despite some reservations and worries. Also, while Disneyland became more important after Mom started deteriorating; going on retreat became more worrisome.

I do believe there has been guidance, and that is one thing that comforts me. For example, one thing I had not thought about is that January is not a big vacation time. Families with children in school, and people who want to spend the holidays with their families, do a lot of travel in December, and January is too soon to go again. That led to better pricing, which was a relief.

Remembering there was a holiday also helped. Julie had MLK Day off anyway, so while asking her to commit her day to our mother is still asking for something, it was not asking her to give up personal leave or rearrange her work schedule.

The most important thing about the retreat is that it was doing something just for me. I expect to enjoy Disneyland, but I am doing that for Mom; her needs will have to go above mine. Going away and having a day entirely for myself was only for me.
That is not to say that it will not benefit anyone around me. Understanding that helps some people justify taking their own time, but it is even better if they can see that they are reason enough on their own. Someone else can watch the kids for a little while. For one day the office can be closed. The obstacles vary but the need for rest doesn't.

Mainly, one of the things that came out almost two years ago was that with all I was doing, there was nothing left for me. I am the only one who can change that. If I leave myself for last, I will run out before I get there. It's easy to do, but it hurts you.

Related posts:

Monday, January 30, 2017

My first march

Saturday I participated in the March for Equality and Justice. I said that I would when I was writing about the Women's March.

I had been planning on it for a week and a half. I don't know when the DAPL protest in Pioneer Courthouse Square was planned, but I remember seeing at least a few marchers who were planning on doing both. The protests that happened at the airport on the same day came up much more suddenly, due to one horrible executive order that may have taken some attention away from a horrible appointment.

I mention that because it looks like there are going to be many opportunities to march and protest, and many reasons to be involved, even if you have never done this before.

This was my first time. Well, I have been at a rally before, but it had been a while. I want to capture my thoughts anyway, but also it may be helpful for others contemplating marching in the future.

I have walked 5Ks before, which is slightly longer, but there was a lot less chanting. (Except for that one time with the Hari Krishnas.) There were times when I was not chanting. At first I felt bad about this, but then I realized that different people at different places were starting chants, and then eventually stopping and someone else would start a different one. If the ones leading the chant cannot maintain it for the entire walk, you probably can't either. Do what you can, and keep moving.

The march route was about 2.7 miles. I looked that up after, but it would have been smart to look it up before. You do have a physical body that will feel things, so think about that. It makes sense to wear good shoes. Maybe you want to carry water or a source of protein. For me, I need to know that I have glucose tablets in case my blood sugar gets too low. I hate being delicate enough that I have to think about it, but I would hate the problems that me fainting would cause infinitely more.

I did occasionally see people pull off to the side and rejoin later. This mainly involved families having to adjust carriers and strollers. There are two things with that.

One is that I appreciate the common struggle where your child might stubbornly want to walk when it would be easier to push or carry them. I appreciate that despite the frustration those parents participate anyway, and that they are teaching their children to care and be engaged. I believe that in the long term it will be very rewarding, and I hope it still feels good overall in the short term. The groups I saw seemed to be in good spirits.

The other thing is that if you are near the front, chances are you can rejoin well before it has passed you by. There were a lot of us. The accounts I have read only say that there were hundreds without being more specific, but you don't necessarily know it at the time. There was one moment, where I kind of could tell. When we turned onto Fremont, the road dipped a little and I had a better view of the crowd stretching in front of me. There were many of us. I still don't know how many were behind. I just know that they had to move the rally to outside of the church so that more could be a part.

My energy did flag at times, but there were little boosts all along the way. Some cars honked in support, but sometimes it would be a whole string of cars, and you feel that. At various points people waved along the sidelines. There was a big boost as we walked past Planned Parenthood, and in the neighborhood as we got nearer to the church. The one I will remember most is an woman with snow white hair waving at us and clapping from her apartment balcony. I bet she marched in her younger days. Not everyone has to walk each time.

Not all of the responses were positive. I saw one driver grimacing at us while stopped at a light. We were chanting about how racism has got to go, and I don't truly know if that was the reason for his scowl, but it didn't feel friendly. Then on my way back I caught a bus that was already full of many marchers. Another man got on and complained that the protesters should have walked. Well, we had already walked; that's why we needed a ride back. Also we had paid fares, so there's that. But those were exceptions.

It was overall a positive experience. There were two more trains of thought that I will write up now, and one that may come up later on the Provident Living blog.

The marchers were mainly white; not at all surprising in Portland. I did have worries about how good we will be as allies. We are representing now, but the next time we are asked to listen instead of talking over someone, or the next time we have to examine our own behavior and it's uncomfortable, how will we do? But I was also thinking how I never feel like I do enough, and then I thought maybe by marching I am aspiring to be more, and becoming more. We can try.

My other thought was remembering the '60s, and how many of the actions were important for publicity, but they were followed up with political and economic pressure. I am not sure how we do that now. Back then there was a federal government that had reservations but was nonetheless sympathetic to civil rights. In addition, many of the Jim Crow policies were carried out through businesses, so there were obvious targets for boycotts.

Now I am not so sure. Many phone calls stopped one threat to ethics oversight, but a new threat popped up. It looks like some of the protests are making an impact on immigration policy, but with Bannon's increased role this government is not going to become more racially progressive. There are concerns.

Perhaps the march then becomes a reminder that there are shared concerns, and there are people who do make plans, and people who respond. We can be vigilant, we can mobilize, and we can be better.

We do need each other to do it.

There was one example of that during the march. On the way to the Maranatha church, where we were going, we passed the Allen Temple CME church, which is undergoing renovations after some electrical fires. A sign posted said that during the renovation they will be meeting at the Maranatha church. Help is being given and received.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Band Review: Krista Hartman

Krista Hartman is a Canadian solo artist.

She followed me shortly after Ron Sexsmith did, and they have one collaboration in her catalog. I put their reviews into separate weeks to try and not conflate them too much. While Hartman herself is also pretty low-key, there is a different mood to her work.

One interesting thing about the delay is that it put her into the same week as Brandon Jeffries who - while he is not straight country - could appeal easily to country fans. I believe that is true of Hartman too. Without there exactly being a twang, her voice lends itself well to more country-inspired music. I believe she could have good crossover appeal.

I enjoyed her collaboration with Sexsmith - "Broken In Two" - a lot, but I think the song that best typifies her style and sound is "Sunny Days". That track is also on her most recent release, Constellations. So, start there. If you listen to "Sunny Days" and like it, then you should listen more.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Band Review: Brandon Jeffries

Brandon Jeffries is a singer-songwriter from North Carolina.

While the emphasis is on him and his guitar - his appearances are often acoustic - the recordings sound full and vibrant. There is a liveliness to the beat and a strength to the sound.

His Southern roots can be heard, but they are not overpowering, making this music that both fans and non-fans of country should enjoy.

"Follow the Leader" gives a good sense of his general vibe.






Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Choosing our engagement

Last weekend I did something for only myself. I thought today I was going to write about that, but I think I need to spend some more time on the choice issue.

Let me back up and explain something. I cashed out my 401K in December. I did it because my unemployment has run out, because there has not been any job that is good enough to make it worth leaving my mother alone, and because my income for 2016 was so low that the payout won't screw up my taxes as much as it would have doing it in 2017 (assuming that it was still necessary, which I do). So I have some money again, though I need to be careful with it, and yet I am still doing some un-careful things.

Next week I am taking my mother for two days in Disneyland. That does not sound like a necessary expense. It was an idea I'd had for something I would do once my financial difficulties were resolved, so it's been percolating for a while. Then I realized I can do this now.

I have been thinking that it may turn out to have been a bad idea, or a mistake, thinking that at some point this money will run out and wondering what will happen then. The thing is, future suffering doesn't automatically make a choice wrong. Maybe the future suffering will come anyway, and the past pleasure will make it bearable.

On one level yesterday's post came down to a decision to march one week later, because if I can only have one Saturday free I am choosing the more racially progressive group. There are actually a lot of other choices in there. Do I march at all? Will it be effective? If I can get a free Saturday should I spend it doing something that recharges me?

We are at a horrible time in history. The current president has been fond of applying the word "disaster" to others (he has an issue with projection), but that seems like the best word for this. He is moving quickly, neither half of the legislative branch seems inclined to check him, and between the terrible but true things and the outright lies, just keeping up seems impossible.

A situation so dire calls for drastic measures, but it can be hard to know what to do or how to focus. It may feel like the personal needs to be subordinate to the political, but that is not right either. This is a time for balance, and a time for choices.

Some people are encouraging more volunteer work. That is fine, but won't be enough. There needs to be activism too. However, it probably makes sense to pick one or two areas to focus on, instead of everything. It doesn't mean that you won't sometimes see something outside of your chosen area and make a phone call or attend a meeting. Because keeping up is so difficult, let the impossibility free you and choose what you can.

If you are not sure how to choose, I can suggest a few options. One would be to pick the item that has been your hot button before. For my sister Julie, it's the environment. For me, it's anti-racism. This does not make us enemies.

You could also choose based on what fits into your life and proximity. Maybe you know someone who is already working with homelessness, and you can start making connections through there. Even if you are choosing your hot button, finding a few knowledgeable sources is going to be valuable. There are people who have been working at this all along. Learn from them, and give them support because they are probably tired.

Nothing is so dire that it means you should neglect your own needs. This administration is exhausting, but people were getting tired out before that. Lots of people are overworked and underpaid, and the means of information overload are all around. Adding one more thing sounds impossible.

Setting limits helps. The most important limit may be news and screen time. If you find that hearing his voice makes you ill, that's a good reason to not watch the TV news, which frankly repeats a lot. You can switch to online sources. At the same time, having a constant news scrawl on view can make you nervous and irritable. Maybe you need to keep your phone out of sight for most of the day, and pick one nightly news show.

Look for creative solutions. Maybe you need social connections, but can't find time. Make time. Pick a TV show and watch it together. Rotate weekly dinners or do potlucks. We are all going to need friends.

And if this feels like a time to spend more and save less, because there might not be a future, I wish I still had arguments against that. I don't. I will say make your purchases count, because accumulating more junk doesn't increase feelings of wellness or comfort. Experiences can. Shared kindness can. There are many good choices available, but they may not follow the old logic.

Please note that's not exactly nihilism, or I wouldn't be suggesting activism. It all has meaning. This is still a very dark time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I did not march, rally, or burn anything this weekend

I did get into a spirited discussion about protesting. It focused on one person's hatred of protesters because of flag burning, even though that's not something that all protesters do, but I had thought of doing it.

I thought of burning a flag the day after the election, but wondered if I could even keep one lit. Then I thought of doing it on inauguration day, but there were already people doing it, and I didn't feel like I could add anything to it. I'm not ruling it out for the future - maybe right after they pass legislation outlawing it - but if I am going to do it, I want it to be meaningful.

That was my choice, and thinking about these choices will be important for this and tomorrow's post.

I had registered for the Women's March sister march in Portland. I was planning on going and I had let my sisters know so that we could make sure that our mother was not left alone. That is something that affects all of my decisions about where I go and when now. Still, it looked like a go.

The first doubt came when I saw that the Portland NAACP had withdrawn its endorsement:

The lack of inclusion was all too familiar, but another friend had posted a reminder to white protesters that if things start going down, make sure to watch out for the people of color around you. Take photos. Make sure they get to safety. I still felt like the march could do good and that I might do good there.

There had been another hint of an issue, but it hadn't really registered. I saw something indicating that sex workers had been first included and then excluded. At that point I was not quite clear on how many events were happening or how they were connected, and the mention I saw was not specific. I know that many people are uncomfortable with sex workers, though I promise you that the issues that affect them are related to the larger struggle for women's rights.

Speaking of the abortion rights issue, I got into discussion on that too, but only after. I see valid reasons for concerns given the threats to women's health care and the predatory nature of the president, but exploring common ground could be useful here and I know that many pro-life women did march.

Those concerns were there, but I was still planning on going. Then I saw that they were leaving Hillary Clinton off the list.

Some argued that Michelle Obama should have been on there too, and I think that would have been nice, but given how much Clinton has put herself out there in this election, it was shocking that she would be excluded.

That was another blow. I was thinking maybe I could make my sign reference her, like "Still with her" or "Thanks Hillary", but I was starting to feel done. I heard that the organizers were big Sanders supporters, and then ignoring people of color and refusing to give credit to Hillary made perfect sense.

At that point, it was easy to decide not to go. This is not my path forward, and I have limited time. I am going to use it on the March and Rally for Justice and Equality on the 28th.

I still believe that the Women's March was good for the people who went. If I had unlimited free time, I might have done both. Frankly, there is enough going on that we are all going to have choose where to focus our participation or we are all going to burn out. That will only benefit Trump.

I will share one last thing on the Women's March. This puts the onus on me, but not only me.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Bowling together

I did not participate in the march Saturday, for reasons that were both time-based and ideological. I'll get into that tomorrow, but now I want to say how I still found it inspiring.

I was inspired by how many of my friends marched as entire families. It reminds me that marriages can be supportive, and that children can be raised to be caring and engaged civicly.

It inspired me that even some rather conservative friends marched, and that their kind of old-school parents spoke up for them when fellow conservatives criticized their participation. It's easy to underestimate people, but they can surprise you.

I had not been aware of the hat thing when I had initially decided to participate, but I appreciate the way it tied the crowd together and made the field more visible.

It was also inspiring to see the pictures coming in from multiple locations. People make so many jokes about just getting rid of Texas, but there was a large crowd in Austin. There was a large crowd in Utah. A red state is still full of people who disagree, and who pay a higher price for that disagreement. We need to remember them.

It was exciting to see photos from Paris and Antarctica. I am still learning more about participation, including a virtual march for people with disabilities.

I see a lot of good in it, including an increased feeling of solidarity. Whether that is capitalized on - and used well - is a separate issue, but I think it is okay to take a moment and simply enjoy remembering that we are not alone. It is good to take a moment of celebration, even though fear is legitimate and work is necessary.

And it goes with the long reading list too.

One of the books was Robert D. Putnam's Bowling Along: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. I am afraid that the book is overly dry for a lot of readers to enjoy it, but the concepts are important. We are doing less together, both for fun and for efforts toward community improvement, but we need each other. We need the socialization, and we need the work. We are only going to be needing that more.

So it becomes a beautiful thing to see people coming together, and that was more than meeting up at the places. People that could crochet made extra hats. Shops started running out of pink yarn, so business got a boost. Some people coordinated rides. People made time.

We can do it. We are tired, overloaded people, but we can do it, and we can help each other do it.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Band Review: Ramones

Yesterday I said that The Clash were musically better than the Ramones. It kills me a little to say that, though Johnny was pretty deprecating of their music too, including to The Clash. That's one of my favorite stories from The End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones.

I loved it, because there was my favorite band inspiring my next favorite band, but also there is something to learn from that. Johnny knew that they weren't exactly virtuosos - "Wait till you see us—we stink, we're lousy, we can't play..." - but he also knew it didn't have to hold them back. "...Just get out there and do it." The Ramones inspired The Clash and the Damned and so many other bands with that attitude.

Johnny was also selling them short, in a way. There were things that they lacked in technical proficiency, but it didn't stop them from being effective. They were knowledgeable in terms of what music could do, and how they wanted it to sound and even in the image that they wanted to present. They consciously chose what stances to adopt when playing. They never sold as many records as they deserved, but they played a lot of shows and they played great shows. They earned a loyalty which a lot of acts with huge sales never managed.

And they were messed up. I hate it so much, and feel so sorry thinking about it. They brought damaged selves into the band, hurt and offended each other during their time in the band, and I'm not sure if any of the rifts were mended in life. The biggest one wasn't.

It is still a remarkable story of hope. They took that damage and they made it work. They meant something. Even on the day that our new racist-in-chief is sworn in - and with my speakers going out so I am starting to get these distorted pops - their music lifts me up.

Some people - in their understandable quest for a bright side - have said that they look forward to the music and art that will be produced under the new regime. I admit there have been times when I wondered if Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher could have been the driving force behind the wonderful music of the '80s.

I also think it was still easier to get by then. There wasn't as much concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, and it was also still really common for people to pay for music. Don't think that doesn't make a difference. I can imagine many people capable of producing wonderful music not getting a chance.

I stand by the importance of art, the importance of music, and the importance of punk. I stand by the legacy of the Ramones.

We did need them then, but we still need them now.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Band Review: The Clash

I have loved The Clash and been listening to them for years, so reviewing them is a different experience. We are way past an introduction, but of course there are still things that can be new. After all, they had already been broken up for a while when I really got into them, so I missed a lot.

Right off the bat, I had never listened to Cut the Crap before. I don't regret listening now, but since I had heard "This Is England" many times from The Essential Clash, I wasn't missing much. You can tell they aren't working together as well. Having seen Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten, and knowing this is after Topper and Mick are gone and their disintegration is in progress, well, of course the album sounds like that. You can give a lot of credit to Bernie Rhodes for the engineering work on "This Is England", but I suspect that could only be successful because the content of the song matches the mood of what had been left.

I had known about "The Only Band That Matters". While I could kind of concede the point - except that it's obviously forgetting the Ramones - it goes against my general nature and beliefs. Well, that was a promotional slogan from CBS, and I appreciate learning that. I guess it never bothered me as much as it could have; that level of brash is pretty punk.

Most important for me was finding this quote from Mick Jones. He was talking about reunions, and how there was never a time when everyone wanted to at the same time. I guess I knew that, because I knew there had never been a big Clash reunion, but I hadn't known this:

"Most importantly for us, we became friends again after the group broke up, and continued that way for the rest of the time. That was more important to us than the band".

Band relationships can contain a lot of angst, perhaps even more so for punk bands. I am glad they found their friendship again, and that they valued it. I wish that would happen for more bands.

While I love the Ramones more (maybe it's a USA thing), I have to admit that I think The Clash are better musicians. They have a wider range, bringing in more influences and instruments. Going over their catalog now, I notice that their track lengths are frequently longer than standard punk. There are bands who have albums with that many tracks, but then those tracks are all two minutes or so, and you can get through them pretty quickly. There are 36 songs on Sandanista!, and they bring in an amazing variety of sounds. Listen to just "Hitsville U.K." and "The Sound of Sinners" for an example of that.

You could say they are not typical punk. I certainly know people who love to declare various bands "not punk" or "no longer punk", but I don't think I've heard anyone pull that on The Clash, and they'd better not. They were punk. They were also more than that. That helped them influence a lot of musicians, far outside of one genre.

As I think about it, I can only think of three songs of theirs that got much radio play, and only one of theirs I ever saw on MTV*. That probably is a result of the punk label. Those are all good songs, but The Clash has many, many more. There is so much that is worth listening too and worth being heard.

That will never change.

*Yes, of course the three are "Rock the Casbah" (also the video), "Train in Vain", and "Should I Stay Or Should I Go".

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Being a punk

I came to punk late. It took a while for me to realize how much I loved certain bands, but also for me to reconcile with punk's negative aspects. I mean, sometimes they are really obnoxious.

I'm not really into that. One of the irritating things I remember from Our Band Could Be Your Life was one band - I don't remember which - that bragged about playing halls and people asking for something a bit more dance-able, you know, for the dance they were being paid to play. Mind you, that was an alternative band, not punk, but there was this attitude of looking down on these stupid ordinary people who don't get us that could have been very punk. I just remember thinking that they could have still played their music mixed in with other stuff. Maybe the audience would have liked them, given a chance.

Let me throw out some random things that I have read over the years, and I'll see if I can make it all fit together.

One was about the origin of the name. "Punk" is an archaic term for prostitute that got used more recently to describe the person who got used for sex in prison. It's a position where you are low and unsupported and therefore abused. To accept that title is to take being low and embrace it.

Another comes from Mad World, and their interview with Marco Pirroni. I have quoted this before, but it bears repeating:

"I was completely done with punk by the end of '77. It became an excuse to be stupid. It lost style; it lost subversiveness; it got really conformist. I thought the early punk thing was that old Oscar Wilde thing: 'We're all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.' Well, the second generation was basically just 'We're all in the gutter.' They never moved on. A lot of them still haven't."

Finally, I had started to learn some things about the DIY (Do It Yourself) aspects of punk culture, like gardening, but a lot of it clicked in while reading Billy Idol's memoir, Dancing With Myself. They were trying to be independent from mainstream culture. That could be done on a principled anti-establishment basis, but it was often practical due to a lack of funds. So growing your own food is a way of eating, and scavenging and thrift shops and the safety pin repairs are a means of survival as well as a protest. Punk fashion's form did indeed follow a function, and sometimes the function was to repel, but that wasn't the only function.

So here we are.

Growing your own food, storing it, regular preparations for the (non) zombie apocalypse - those are probably all good things to do. The economy has been dangerously tilted toward the upper level for a while, and that's getting worse.

Being able to accept a lowly status and then embrace it as your way of rising above it - that won't hurt you. Be ready to be subversive and to create and make a scene when needed. But also keep your eyes on the stars.

Being punk is being anti-establishment. There are always reasons for that, and it looks like there will be better reasons on the way. But it's not enough just to be against. There are politicians that define themselves by their opposition, and they tend not to improve anything. I want to make things better. For everyone if possible, but for one person at a time if that's the best I can do.

I need to be fighting for something, not just against.

I may not be completely punk rock. I am fully me.

Related posts:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The music year in preview

I had a really good blogging week a few weeks ago, getting positive feedback four days in a row. That included a huge response to one Sunday post, the Twitter account for Winter Wonderland retweeting my review of them on the travel blog, and both Steven Battelle and Ray Toro saying nice things about my reviews of their music.

I love the positive feedback (especially from Ray), but it had felt like a good section anyway. Those two band reviews, plus the previous two reviews (for Lostalone and Frank Iero's new album) both felt like really good writing.

I have grown as a writer, but I have also grown as a music listener: This week I review my 405th and 406th bands. (I am going back to some old favorites because it seems like a good time.) Given how much variety that has included, I should have learned a few things now.

It was not only that though, because this was better music. Music with more interesting lyrical content and playing choices and more thought into how the album is put together - I come up with more interesting things to say.

There were other interesting things there. I was supposed to see Frank in concert, which has always been kind of jinxed for me. A bus accident in Australia canceled the rest of the tour (I take no responsibility for that), but I still wanted to review the new album, and Ray's as well. I decided to put Frank and Ray on subsequent weeks, and put bands they had recommended with each one. (If I had seen Frank, his opening band would have run in his week.) I'd had Steven and Lostalone on the recommendations list for a long time, but I had not looked into them enough to know that Steven was in Lostalone. Having just reviewed his former band probably gave some extra context to his review. Knowing stuff helps.

(FYI, Lostalone had toured with My Chemical Romance, which makes it a less astounding coincidence.)

The songs of the day play an important part in everything too. Giving each band a song of the day after reviewing them helps cement them in my mind. I mean, after listening to them enough for a review, they are kind of there anyway, but going back after a while to pick a song makes a difference too. Plus, the bands often feel good about it.

Not all daily songs are from bands reviewed. Sometimes I pick a theme (November 2015 was Muppet Month), but twice in the past year I have been going from books. I am almost done with Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s. That will not end there. I found a few bands there that I don't remember and want to take a deeper look at. That includes Cock Robin and Anything Box, but also some I kind of remember. I totally remember Thomas Dolby, but it sounds like he is doing interesting things now, and I will check that out.

Of course figuring out what happens when is always a question, because there is so much, but I like that. I like that there are still young bands trying to establish themselves, and that I get a chance to listen to them. I like that there are older bands still going around and holding up. Some are still creating new music, and some are focusing more on the old, but they can still put on a pretty good show. You should see how the Psychedelic Furs hold up!

Music is as much an area of learning for me as the academic stuff I do, and for a long way down the road there is still more coming. That excites me; maybe I still have some vitality too.

It is always full of surprises, so I may be wrong, but here, on my 45th birthday, is what I think will be happening musically over the next year.

I have 21 bands waiting for review from Twitter follows, and 37 on the recommended list (though that list always has some ideas that I haven't written down yet). I could do them all this year, but new things always come up, and I do have four concerts scheduled: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Modern English, Reggie and the Full Effect, and Green Day.

The daily song from Mad World will go up on January 20th. I will then start doing songs from the last batch of artists reviewed, maybe throwing in a few other relevant songs. That should take me to about where I finally do a James Dewees week, which should be a great kickoff to starting songs from Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and Emo. I will write about emo, and about that book, but probably not until April.

I also hope to do a country week at some point (I don't I can come up with a full month of country songs that I like).

And at some point - maybe this year, maybe not - I hope to do a me week. Recording is an unknown area for me, with a lot of technical questions and obvious concerns about performance, but yeah, at some point I need to do that.

So, there's lots to look forward too. It's not a bad way to start another year.

But please, no more bus accidents!

Monday, January 16, 2017

No one band is my life

While currently I am focusing on improving me, the long reading list started as a way of being better at helping the young people I was encountering. The ones who befriended me first did it because I liked their bands.

They loved those bands, plus others that I had never heard of before, and at a deeper level than I did, even as someone who has written hundreds of pages inspired by some of those bands. Reading Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 by Michale Azerrad, seemed like an obvious fit.
It didn't go how I thought it would, but how often does it?

This book focused very much on specific bands, and I didn't like most of them that much. It made me happy that Sub Pop Records exists, but the biggest benefit was that it filled in some of the missing pieces in a different book I had read, Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and Emo by Andy Greenwald. (That was valuable, but there will also be a lot of writing about that book eventually.)

"Our band could be your life" comes from a Minutemen song, "History Lesson Part 2". The lesson is the history of that band, and an important part of that history is the effect that other musicians (primarily seminal punk musicians) had on them. The song doesn't develop the thought that much, but I believe the point is that they want to have the same inspirational effect on someone else. They have, even if not on me.

For an understanding of music history, the book was really helpful. For an understanding of sad teens who love music, it wasn't particularly helpful, but I kind of did already know that part, and I learned more about it on my own.

I saw the movie Inside Out fairly recently. Inside Riley, Joy has learned the value of Disgust, Anger, and Fear, but still does not see the point of Sadness, which she learns throughout the course of the film. When you see Riley's parents' minds, all of the feelings are working together pretty harmoniously, having figured that out.

The adolescent developing brain has really intense emotions, and not enough life experience to have full perspective on them. When a song touches our feelings on an emotional level, that is huge.

We don't necessarily lose that in adulthood, but we usually get a lot more responsibility. That occupies our time and our mental energy, but that also often comes with some gratification. Ideally, we are doing things that matter. That's something we don't give teenagers often enough.

I just finished a book unrelated to the list, but one of the coauthors was the driving force behind Model United Nations for our school, and for many other extracurricular activities that helped participants understand the world better. I know I didn't appreciate it enough at the time, but also, I was working a lot of hours and doing a lot of other activities. Together they did enrich my life and keep me going at a time when I needed it.

(That book was Unfettered: A Philosophy of Education by James B. Barlow and Anil B. Naik.)

I still love music, and studying it and writing about it has been an enjoyable part of my life. The next post will be more about that. I am glad for the connections I have made.

I also wish many activities and responsibilities and discovery of abilities for friends, hopefully sooner rather than later. The creative artists who give us emotional boosts are important, but the listeners are important too. They also have something to give. The sooner they learn that, the better.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Band Review: Ron Sexsmith

Ron Sexsmith is a musician, but he first came to my attention as a purveyor of terrible puns. As someone who often recognizes that the pun that just sprang to mind is awful, but says it out loud anyway, I can appreciate that.

His catalog goes back to 1991, and with so much to listen to, I was not able to repeat a lot, which is often where the better insights come. The music is primarily rock with folk elements, kind of mellow and often sounding downbeat. The best comparison is probably Paul McCartney solo.

I want to say it's not always so serious, but the level of gravity lyrically versus musically does not always match. If some songs are more fun or less fun than the content would suggest, well, this is a guy who makes a lot of dad jokes.

With such a lengthy career, it can be hard to know where to start, but I think the most logical place is the most recent, with 2015 release Carousel One. Then, if you get into that groove, you can spend hours and hours finding more. 

Although there are currently only two upcoming shows scheduled (for April), several past dates indicate that more touring is likely.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Band Review: Camryn Wilson

Camryn Wilson is a 17-year old singer/songwriter from North Carolina.

Her age may be best reflected by her son "Blah Blah Blah", where parental things are said but not really heard. It was the song that stood out the most to me, but it also annoyed me. This is jaded teenage attitude, not adolescent exuberance. The reason she isn't listening is that she can't stop thinking about someone else, but instead of feeling the heartbreak, there was just the moping lack of respect. I may be too old for it.

The song I liked best ended up being "It's Christmas"  which brought in more child-like sentiments. That is, it does until the end, when she starts talking about all of the things she wants for Christmas. It's no worse than "Santa Baby" but that is also an annoying song.

None of which makes Camryn Wilson horrible, but she probably needs to grow up a little.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Native American Heritage Month 2016 - Lasting impressions

I have a few thoughts left that I want to get out.

The first one is just a bitter little thing. As George Bent got older and saw those older than him dying off, he realized that their stories and ways were being lost. He started reaching out to different writers and scholars, trying to get that history captured. One of the most responsive was George Bird Grinnell, who did end up publishing two books using a lot of information collected by Bent, much of it in conjunction with another writer, George Hyde.

Grinnell believed the Indians were worthy of respect, and saw them as a vanishing people so knew there was limited time. He still felt free to put Bent off, and deceive him, and cheat Hyde. After all, he could. Bent and Hyde were financially poor. Grinnell knew more about publishing than they did and had better resources. Why not profit from it?

That happens a lot. Sometimes it happens with a very righteous feeling that this is a favor; you don't have to help. It reminds me both how important honest self-examination is if you want to accomplish any good, and also that marginalize people have a lot of reasons for being suspicious.

One thing that may have made it easier for Grinnell to be that way is that after all, the Indians were doomed. It is still easy to forget that they are around as anything more than mascots and stories, but we lose things that way. We especially lose if we do not look to indigenous people on the environment. I had heard that before, but I didn't understand it. It is true for a few reasons.

Perhaps the most obvious one - in light of the North Dakota Access Pipeline controversy - is that native lands are often used in the worst ways. They are out of sight, which makes ignoring legal treaties easier, and so things can be done that we don't see. This can include nuclear and other kinds of waste, and fossil fuel issues. It has also included medical testing. If we want to achieve environmental justice and medical justice, we need to look at that.

That self-righteousness can come up in ways you don't expect. An environmental organization can decide that the best way to preserve lands is to keep people off of them, or only allow certain uses, but the people who were on those lands first knew how to live on them without destroying them. Maybe there's a better way.

I still remember animal rights protesters interfering with the attempts of the Makah tribe to finally get back their tradition of whale-hunting. If they were all vegetarian maybe that was not hypocritical. Even so, when we have spent centuries trying to snuff out a people, and their culture, and it is important to their well-being to reconnect to it, that can be reason enough to shut up. If we listened to them more it might improve circumstances for all whales.

Much of the environmental and medical information came from Andrea Smith's book, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide. That sounds like it would focus more on rape, but that was only a small part of it. However, one point that was brought up multiple times in multiple books is that there was no rape before, at least in the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) culture. This was true for both the native women and the white women who visited them.

It was not that they didn't know that such a crime was possible, but it was regarded as a terrible crime and it wasn't done. Later on there are cases of captives being raped (that does come up in the Bent book) and it is a common problem on the reservations now, but it looks like they learned that from us.

There is room for a lot more knowledge here. The Haudenosaunee had defined gender roles, but were still equal. Was the equality why they didn't rape? What other cultures didn't rape, and which ones did? Our culture says that rape is a terrible crime, but given how we treat it, it's like we don't really mean it. What sets apart the societies that are not like that?

Perhaps that is the most important lingering thought: we do not have to be this way.

White supremacy was invented. It has deep roots, but it is not innate. We can overcome that.

Even cultures that see different roles for men and women can see them as equal. We can do that.

There is plenty of evidence of how horrible we can be, but it is not the only story.

With that, I leave which books appear to be the most important out of those that I read this time around.

Sisters in Sprirt: Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Influences on Early American Feminists, by Sally Wagner Roesch

Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, by Andrea Lee Smith

The Invention of the White Race, Volumes 1 and 2, by Theodore W. Allen

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